It's the most wonderful time of the year for gifting and showing your loved ones how much you care about them. I personally feel warm and fuzzy when I see the beautiful presents sitting under the tree, but it comes with the unfortunate reality of how much waste is produced by gift wrapping. There's a Japanese philosophy called "mottainai," loosely meaning "what a waste," that has been used by my grandma and famously in a fun Obon dance song. Let's try to live by this philosophy and be less wasteful this holiday season.
I am here to help and give you a mini guide to make your wrapping not only more sustainable, but also more budget friendly since most of them use things you hopefully already have sitting around your house.
I tried out four different alternatives that you could use to wrap your presents, and rated them honestly based on ease and sustainability, with 10 meaning it was extremely easy and super sustainable! Don't worry if you're not confident in your wrapping skills, because I promise I'm just as bad and these still worked out.
Tip: if you don't have the supplies, you can ask friends, family, neighbors, or your local "buy nothing" Facebook group if they have any extra paper bags, jars, string, fabric and more! I was able to do all of these wrapping alternatives for free with the help of neighbors and friends.
1. Furoshiki wrapping
I knew I wanted to try out the viral and traditional Japanese way of wrapping presents called "Furoshiki." I always remembered my grandma wrapping in this way to cover her baked goods, so this is a little homage to her. For a little history, this type of wrapping originated in Japan for 1200 years, and you could use many different materials to do this simple and beautiful wrapping. For example, you can use anything lying around your house, like old fabric, scarves, tea towels, and bandanas!
Easiness Rating: 9/10
Sustainability Rating: 10/10 for sustainability since you only need one material that the gift receiver can use over and over again. The only downside is if your box is too big and you only have a small fabric material, it might be difficult to wrap. I used a rainbow bandana that someone donated to me through my local "Buy Nothing" Facebook group!
2. Wrapping with old newspaper, maps and sheet music
You can get really personal and creative with this type of wrapping, which can make wrapping actually kind of fun! For example, for newspapers, you can find a comic that you think the gift receiver would like, or even a crossword puzzle page. You can possibly get old sheet music from those old piano books that you haven't seen since elementary school if your parents made you play piano, like mine. Lastly, since maps aren't super common anymore thanks to GPS, you or your parents might have an old map lying around their house that you can use.
Easiness Rating: ~ 8/10 (I used a map)
Sustainability Rating: 7/10 for sustainability since it's likely that the person will throw away or recycle the paper after opening it up, and it requires tape. However, it would be great to use if the person you're giving it to loves to travel or drive!
3. Mason jar or clean glass jars
Planning to make treats as little gifts for teachers or friends? Using old glass jars is a great way to showcase the treats you made and "upcycle" a container. All you need to do is clean the inside of an old jar from spaghetti or yogurt jars and take off the sticker from the outside. I collected jars from some neighbors who saved the jars and put cookies inside for friends!
There are so many ways to decorate the jar from Pinterest or Google, but I decided to keep mine pretty simple with string, leaves, and a cute gift tag from Target! I would encourage your gift receiver to reuse the glass jar after they finish the treats or recycle it after.
Easiness Rating: 9/10
Sustainability Rating: 8/10
4. Grocery paper bag wrapping
Have a lot of Trader Joe's paper bags? This would be perfect for you and it was surprisingly not too difficult! It also looks super minimalistic and you could spruce it up with some natural decorations like cherries or tree clippings. You can use this article from The Cozy Home Chronicles to learn how to cut and wrap your gifts.
Easiness Rating: 6/10 for easiness since it was a little hard to fold since it's a pretty thick material and you're restricted to only wrapping smaller presents, unless you use two paper bags in order to wrap a bigger present. However, the paper was really easy to cut.
Sustainability Rating: 7/10 for sustainability since you have to use tape and string, which are both things that the receiver would have to discard.
Although these are all super fun and unconventional ways to wrap presents, the most sustainable option is to use up the gift bags and wrapping paper you already have! You can also just try a couple of these options out and see which one works best for you and what you have lying around your house.
Hope you have fun with this, while putting your own personal touch to it. Please stay mindful of the planet during this time, and hope you have a wonderful holiday!